Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Interview: L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina on the Issues

(photo from L.A. Times)

After a long day in the board meeting Supervisor Gloria Molina sat down in her office for a late afternoon interview with me. Behind her desk, she is nothing if not intimidating.

(Click player to hear entire interview or read below for interview highlights)

“Let me hear what you’re going to say,” Senior Legislative and Press Deputy Roxane Márquez said. She warned me that Molina was customarily tough on reporters and she would be tough on me.

“She’s intense,” Márquez said, “ She has been accused of leading by temper tantrum, she plays the card too often sometimes, but it’s ok because people are outraged by how cavalier the bureaucracy can be. In the Mexican and feminist groups the feeling is even more acute.”

“When I see my community being taken advantage of it just stirs in me a hostility and anger,” Molina said.

On the incorporation of East L.A.:

“I think that the group of people who are moving forward on the incorporation are good people who really believe in the romance of it…I know there isn’t a revenue base in East L.A to really sustain itself. Just like the woman who had the octuplets…”

“Now, saying all of that, I know that if I come out against it I can kill incorporation and I don’t wish to. I wish it to proceed forward, I think the residents are entitled to get all the information…Then I think the voters should vote and they should make their own decision…I don’t want to influence them.”

“They would have to change the zoning in a lot of areas. They would have to bring in more retail. The problem is it’s going to be a painful process,” Molina said.

On her tough attitude:

“They sometimes get upset with me because I’m so demanding but at the same time I would trade any of my staff people, that I’ve trained, for anybody else’s staff people. I think that I have, by far, some of the smartest brightest people. It was a tough road…but I bet ya they’re the brightest bulbs wherever they go because of our…boot camp,” Molina joked.

“I started out as a very very shy intimated individual, I was raised as that. But I’m really one of the products of the Chicano movement. I know government can change things.”

“I do give breaks, when people make mistakes the first time I don’t go after them, but when they make it the second and the third time…” Molina said as Márquez interrupted with, “ And then she says, I’m yelling at you, kid, the way Willie Brown (former speaker of the California State Assembly) yelled at me.”

Márquez confirmed that Molina does not come to work make friends. She said that for herself and the other staff for whom Molina was a political hero, it was hard to understand that she would never be their friend.

“But it’s not just about me. I need every single person on my staff to know that they’re a significant as me, if not more so,” Molina said.

On President Obama:

“We have just seen a president that I think has destroyed this country and a whole new leader that gives us an opportunity to really change everything that we’ve been doing…if he continues to be commanding about that leadership he can dramatically change the kind of respect… that we have for government.”

“It helps me, not having war and not being disrespected as a world power helps me because we can further our goals when it comes to dreaming about health care for everybody and talking about a fair immigration plan and talking about leading by example. Him trying to heal all of the disaster that the last administration left behind helps me. I feel more hopeful, I feel more patriotic, and I kind of feel very optimistic. A lot is riding on his very first steps… but so far everything looks good.”

“I have high expectations and I would continue to challenge even the president,” Molina said.

I wrapped up the half-an-hour interview soon after that, but not before she could tell me “You should know local government…and when you go meet with a politician you should know exactly what they do.” Considering her reputation, I got off easy.

(photos from the day)

Created with flickr slideshow.

Click here for recent and popular L.A. Times articles on Gloria Molina.

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